Settlement makes more sense than firing Chris Mack


If the Chris Mack era is coming to an end, the timing could be tricky.

If the University of Louisville fired its head basketball coach without cause, it would trigger a buyout clause worth $12 million. If the U of L were to wait for the independent liability resolution process to confirm alleged Level II violations during Mack’s tenure — which would give the university contractual grounds to eliminate exit payments — it will likely be. in August or September before that decision is made.

That could leave the program stalled for months and months, with an alleged lame duck as head coach and the resulting crippling of recruiting. It is a consumption to avoid with devotion.

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If the 2021-22 season can’t be salvaged, if Mack can’t drastically change his team’s trajectory, a negotiated settlement would seem the most logical solution. So says Richard Katz, who negotiated Bob Huggins’ $3 million departure from Cincinnati in 2005.

“It makes a lot of sense,” Katz said Friday. “If I’m the president of the university or the athletic director, I say, ‘Chris comes in. Here’s what’s going on, man. We love you to death, but this is what we have to do. We need to talk about fixing this thing and you can leave without getting fired. You just quit. That’s what we did with Huggs.

It may not come to that. Mack has shown a knack for fixing broken teams, including in 2017 when he lost point guard Xavier in late January, lost 10 of his last 16 regular season games, but went through three rounds of the NCAA Tournament before being eliminated. in the Elite Eight by seeded Gonzaga.

In theory, some of the same people calling for Mack’s leadership today could be appeased by the end of March. Theoretically, some of the same players who mystified Mack could become more predictable and productive as the season progresses.

But with the Cardinals continuing to struggle against flimsy opponents, with a second straight missed NCAA Tournament increasingly likely, with a real-world home presence plummeting and with NCAA penalties still pending, he U of L administration is responsible for evaluating exit strategies.

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Yes, the endless NCAA investigation that Mack inherited hampered his recruiting. Yes, COVID-19 has caused recurring disruptions to his training and game schedules. Yes, Louisville fans may be quicker to criticize than appropriately assign blame.

Yet the actual number of tickets scanned for the nine men’s games through December 29 (including two exhibitions) was less than half of the announced attendance – 56,784 compared to 114,852 – for a program that has long been the most profitable college basketball. And Wednesday’s 16-point home loss to North Carolina State is unlikely to rekindle interest from away viewers.

That’s not to say Mack is outdated. His coaching record shows he is more than capable. But when a coach loses his audience, change usually follows. When that coach is incriminated in an extortion scheme by a former assistant, that change may be inevitable.

More from Sullivan: Louisville basketball’s Chris Mack coaches like his job is on the line

The fact that the change hasn’t already happened speaks to the magnitude of Mack’s buyout and the college’s hope that he will change the narrative with a strong season. But with an IARP hearing not scheduled until June, with months of deliberation to follow, the U of L can ill afford to wait for a verdict from the IARP before delivering its own. To some extent, potential U of L penalties could be mitigated by replacing a coach found responsible for three Level II violations.

Mack, too, might see an advantage in entering the workforce in March rather than the fall, especially if it means a substantial cash settlement instead of being laid off for cause.

“What’s it worth to college to make this thing disappear?” Katz asked. “I think it’s worth more than $2-3 million. Knowing nothing about this case, I think it is worth 4 or 5 million dollars. “We know we don’t have to, but we want this thing to go away, we want to look good, we want you to look good. Let’s do it, man.

“I think the university, if they’re smart, that’s what they need to think about.”

Tim Sullivan: 502-582-4650, [email protected]; Twitter: @TimSullivan714

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